W.Province out to stop another Lions 30 pointer

The British and Irish Lions posted 30 points against Western Province in each of their last two outings and there’s every chance of history repeating itself at Newlands on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 3pm).

Western Province will be fielding a vastly depleted side since they have some 12 players on the injury list while four other key players are in the Springbok squad and therefore not available for selection.

The Lions on the other hand have named a side which hardly resembles their likely Test XV but the players will be using the outing to press their Test selection claims ahead of their clash against the Springboks in Durban on Saturday, June 20.

In 1997 the Lions romped home 38-21 at Newlands against Western Province who went on to win the Currie Cup that year.

The WP side which did duty against the 1997 Lions included several Springboks and their reserves bench included the likes of Bobby Skinstad and Toks van de Linde.

The 1980 showdown saw the Lions running out convincing 37-6 winners and that WP side too included a host of Springboks.

The WP side failed to score a try in that match as their six points in that match came via two penalties.

Injuries have shorn the WP side of their front line players whose number include Francois Louw, Deon Fourie, Pieter Myburgh, Brian Mujati, Sireli Naqelevuki, Adriaan Fondse and Conrad Jantjes. In addition Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers, Andries Bekker and Ricky Januarie are with the Springboks.

Two weeks ago WP played a friendly against lowly Mighty Elephants in Port Elizabeth and even with a makeshift combination that included several debutantes they were able to run in 10 tries in a 72-10 runaway win.

As much as individuals in the Lions line-up will be out to enhance Test claims, several WP players will be playing with the aim of impressing ahead of the start of the Currie Cup season next month.

And then there are WP players such as Peter Grant, Gcobani Bobo, Brian Mujati, Duane Vermeluen and Luke Watson who lost out on Springbok selection probably because they played in a rather poor Stormers side this season.

An impressive display against the Lions’ tourists on Saturday could bring them back into the frame in the event of injuries in the national squad.

The weather forecast for Saturday afternoon is that it is likely to rain at Newlands. Wet weather could put a damper on the match for the home side because its strength lies in the backline which could be effective in dry underfoot conditions.

The lack of tight five firing power upfront has been the undoing of the Newlands side for the past few seasons and in the event of wet weather they could expect to be on the back foot for most of the afternoon.

The Lions’ frontrow includes the England powerhouses Phil Vickery and Andrew Sheridan and it will take a monumental effort to upstage them.

WP will fancy their chances at the breakdown points which will be patrolled by their star loosies Watson and Vermeulen, both of whom produced excellent Super 14 displays.

The Lions to date have not had it all their own way at the breakdowns but their coach Ian McGeechan said on Friday that it was the problem of refereeing interpretations rather than lack of ability.

As a result of the confusion that has been created by various refereeing interpretations the Lions and Springbok management have been given the go-ahead by the IRB to meet with the official in charge of the First Test a day prior to the clash to clear up breakdown issues.

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